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Posted on: January 22, 2024

Flint Hills Regional Leaders Retreat


A full house and a day jammed with useful information best describes the 2024 Flint Hills Regional Leaders Conference, held Friday, January 19 at the Manhattan Conference Center. This conference brought together business, community and civic leaders from Riley, Geary and Pottawatomie Counties.

With a fresh and relatable approach to understanding young adult buying habits, Clint Runge outlined young adult DNA and their value systems, preferences and opinions. Brands can rely   on these insights to build stronger positioning, create more on-message marketing, evolve their products and hire more effectively. Even better, every parent in the room walked away understanding their kids with a new appreciation.

The conference also featured “lightning round” ten-minute community updates/looks ahead featuring the Junction City Chamber, Wamego Chamber, Manhattan Chamber, Pottawatomie County Economic Development Corporation, Flint Hills Regional Council and the Manhattan Regional Airport. 

Attendees heard about K-State 105, Kansas State University's answer to the call for a comprehensive economic growth and advancement solution for Kansas. The initiative leverages the statewide K-State Research and Extension network to deliver the full breadth of the university's collective knowledge and solution-driven innovation to every Kansan, right where they live and work.

Experts from the Kansas Hospital Association, the Kansas Health Institute and Blue Bross/Blue Shield of Kansas took attendees on a deep dive into health in the region, how it impacts our communities and economic development, and the vast disparities that exist within the Flint Hills region.

A highlight of the day was an address from General John V. Meyer, Commanding General, First Infantry Division, Fort Riley, who shared the troubling news that the nation’s biggest security threat comes from challenges faced by the U.S. military in recruitment. 

Updates and progress being made on community issues/programs featured discussion of Manhattan’s innovative Childcare Accelerator, the fledgling Manhattan Parks & Recreation Foundation and how the stars are aligning for significant progress in 2024 on the chronic housing challenge. 

The conference wrapped up with a presentation and facilitated group conversation by Ed O’Malley, president & CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation, who shared insights from his bestselling book, When Everyone Leads, which discusses a revolutionary approach to leadership. 

Neither position nor authority, those in attendance learned that leadership is an activity open to anyone who can see and seize their moments to lead and engage differently. In a culture where everyone leads, individuals, organizations and communities make more progress on what matters most.

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